CAMP CHEF: for over 25 years Camp Chef has been making quality cooking gear for all of your outdoor cooking needs. Our products include Outdoor Cookers, Emergency preparedness stoves, Pellet Grills, Smokers, Pizza Ovens, Cast Iron Dutch Ovens, Flat Top Grills, Griddles, Fire Pits, Outdoor Movie Screens, and many more. Camping, Catering, Tailgating, Hunting, Dutch Oven cooking or even just on your deck at home. Cooking is our passion.
First, it’s really easy to use, with an electric auto ignition and shutdown system, plus LED controls that make setup idiot proof. Once it’s up and burning, the built in temperature sensor and meat probe make knowing what’s going on inside simple, especially considering that the thermometer is one of the most accurate I’ve seen, with only around 10 degrees variance. It’s got multiple settings if you’re using it as a meat smoker, as well, so you can control your flavor.
Whenever you want to smoke with a pellet smoker, you will have to make a choice: What type of wood pellets should I use? Well, the answer may sound simple – whichever flavor you like the best – but might be pretty difficult if you’re smoking for the first time. Unfortunately, the only way to know which flavor you like most is to try them all at least once and then decide upon which one floats your boat.
Yes, no one likes to read the instruction manual. But there are many advantages of learning the specifics of your grill and reading the manual is key. Generally, you should not use water to clean your pellet smoker, so keep your hose pipe far away. These smokers have digital controllers, a motorized auger, a fan and an igniter rod for the fire pot. These parts will get destroyed if they come into contact with water. You should gently dry scrub the dirt off these parts, making sure not to disassemble any parts. Cleaning the thermostat will also prove to be essential; otherwise, it may read internal temperatures inaccurately.
What’s more, it has an LED display with a Digital Elite Controller for temperature control. Judging by its ratings, unlike the other grills on this list, its temperature and quality controls work just fine. This grill also has an electronic auto-start ignition and easy-to-clean grill gates to boot. Its quality control isn’t perfect though, and some faulty units slipped through the cracks.
Traeger Junior Elite Pellet Grill is a great model for those who want to start up the smoker, add some meat, and let the work be done for them. It is also extremely versatile, allowing you to grill, smoke, roast, and bake. It is perfect for individual households, college students, and even tailgating. And it’s a great option for first timers as well as those who have experience using pellet smokers.
With that said, we can guarantee that all of the grills on this list are designed from the best quality materials and design elements to ensure that it not only lasts the test of time, it is safe to use, easy to set up, and also designed to cook the best meals possible. With that said, let’s talk about a pillar that has added to the quality criteria, the material design.
Kevin- I’m in the process of researching to get my husband a grill for Christmas. I’m torn between the 820 you mentioned above and the Traeger Pro Series. As far as I can tell they are basically the same except that you get a larger cooking area on the pit boss for the same price you pay for a small cook space in a traeger. I would like to spend around $600 on the grill but would possibly go up to $800 and want 500 sq in cook space or greater. Which do you prefer? Pit Boss, Traeger or another brand?
Pellet smokers can be used as a charcoal grill by adding the lit charcoal into the charcoal tray. Some of the best pellet smokers allow users to attach a propane tank to the stove to convert them into a gas grill or a kitchen oven. With a flat-top accessory, it can even be used as a griddle. A pellet smoker is an all-in-one solution for the hardened grill masters.
Renegade Pro is built to suit all your cooking needs; it can cook, braise, broil, char, sear, bake, smoke, roast, grill, and barbecue your food to that “melt-in-the-mouth” perfection. To bring about this versatility, it offers different temperature settings, such as “Hot and Fast” and “Low and Slow” that can be controlled using its Digital Pro Controller.
In reading through the comments section, it seems the recommendations have shifted over time. As it stands today, which smoker would you go with and why: GMG Jim Bowie, Traeger Pro 34, or the RecTec? I like the cooking space of the Traeger Pro 34, but the other 2 seem to have more bells and whistles. I’ve been smoking about 5yrs, so not a pro but not a beginner. Currently have a 10+ year old Traeger Lil Tex elite hand-me down that is ready to give up the ghost. Would appreciate your thoughts!
Overall, I think you would be happy with the smaller smoker / grill. I really like what Green Mountain grills has done with the Davy Crockett model, and that is the unit I have personally. That said,Rec-Tec makes a great product, and some people prefer the cart stand it comes with rather than the fold up legs that Green Mountain grills uses on the Davy Crockett modeling. Either choice would be good for you if you are looking for a smaller unit. I am of course speaking about the mini version of the Rec-Tec. The larger version is excellent as well.
Number two when cooking with charcoal (yes plain Kingsford is good stuff if you do it right, a lot of the cheaper brick and cheaper lump can put some weird twangs in your food) brick or lump can produce quality high temp steaks or slow & low bbq! To add some nice flavor add some wood, but do your homework! I think Clark ‘Smokey’ Hale has one of the best books ever for the grill and Q master, “The Great American Manual on Grilling and BBQ or something like that. Last I saw you can grab a used one on Amazon for a few cents and some shipping. The most prolific thing I read in there that so many miss, is burn your wood and your charcoal to where it is literally a coal of gray ash covered glowing ember. Do that and you will find a new flavor in your cooking! Problem is so many places think heavy smoke is great, as they are trying to imitate cold smoke flavors! They are not the same! All this talk I see here about, “I want heavy smoke flavor.” I can tell you if you burn your wood and your charcoal (and I feel even lump needs to be well on it’s way to gray ash covered or you get bitter smoke even though many say not necessary) to a red ember with gray ash covering 80 to 90% minimum preferably completely covered your flavor profile will change. Many supposedly good bbq restaurants I have been in serve something with a bitter or ash flavor, which I find much less enjoyable.
I have ate a few peoples cooking that have won at the Royal, Houston and Memphis in May. They have all had one thing in common, I didn’t put one drop of sauce on them and they had not been sauced on the Q before serving! The restaurant Cackle and Oink is just a ways from where we live and the owner Aaron Vogel is there regularly. I have tasted all his sauces and they are very good, but the 3 times I have been there, his sauces never touch my ribs and brisket! Aaron does say, if you like this you need to try my competition food (which I will at one of the competitions he is in locally). None of the KCBS, Houston or Memphis in may winners Q had even a hint of ash or bitter smoke flavor. They also had a very light smoke profile. They also all say they cook over well burned down wood.
At present, pellet grills are mainstream products, with pellet refills filling the market versus having to find timber, sticks, and charcoal to start a fire (since these pellets are made of sawdust, it’s easier for them to cast fire and completely combust into smoke with minimal residue). Old school pit masters dislike this product mostly because it’s too easy to use, like a microwave versus an oven.
We ended up going with the Memphis Pro. We were fortunate enough to be able to see all of the manufacturers and models I was most interested in, at Sam’s NW BBQ. (Yoder, MAK, Fast Eddy, GMG’s, a few others, and then, the one we ended up with, Memphis.) Sam took a good amount of time, providing us fantastic information about each model. We ended up with the Memphis Pro for the following reasons: 1) The construction, mainly the double-walled construction; 2) the preciseness of temperature, and being able to hold the temperature (due to reason #1); 3) the extreme ease of changing from smoking to grilling without a lot of effort or reconfiguration; 4) the double hoppers; 5) and another BIGGIE, the fact that grilled or baked foods taste like that, and not like smoked cookies, bread, pizza, etc.
To cook food using a pellet grill, put the pellets into a hopper. When you turn it on, the igniting rod will burn pellets in the fire. The motor-driven auger will then supply the fire pot with pellets from the hopper. The ratio that auger delivers pellets to fire pot depends on the settings you control. If you set it at a high temperature for a longer period of time, the auger will keep on feeding the fire pot with pellets. However, if you are slow-cooking and set a low-temperature one, the feeding and delivery of pellets will also slow down.
Take your outdoor cooking to the next level with the Camp Chef Pellet Grill and Smoker. Designed with the home griller in mind, built-in features simplify the process of smoking. The included digital temperature readout takes the guesswork out of the cooking process. An advanced digital temperature chip gives a more steady smoke and temperature, eliminating large temperature swings and giving a more consistent cooking temperature. Our patented Ash Can Cleanout System makes clean up the easiest out there. The Pellet Grill and Smoker features range from innovative digital smoker controls to dual temperature sensors. Discover the real secret of award winning BBQ cooks, low and slow smoking.
Who says bigger is always better? Our fourth contender to make it to our pellet grill review is the The Traeger TFB29LZA Junior elite grill. This petite pellet grill has been specifically designed to meet the needs of small households. Its small body makes it ideal for travelling and tailgating. It features a 300 square inch cooking surface. This pellet grill weighs just 60 pounds. You will get an LED digital, multi-position thermostat that comes with a 3 year warranty.
The first time I grilled something on it -- pulled pork, which takes a long time on the grill -- the fire kept going out on me. My husband called the company, and they said they knew they had that problem. So he told the nice lady on the end of the line that what they needed to do was to add something to the hopper to keep it jiggling just a little so that the pellets continued to go down. "We're working on a solution," she said. "I just told you the solution," my husband, who's a mechanic and loves solving mechanical problems using unusual, but straightforward solutions. His trick? -- get one of those cheap, plastic, clip-on fans and clip it to the hopper, pointing the fan down into the hopper. The fan jiggles it just enough. The air into the hopper "couldn't hurt, either," he told me.
You want longevity in a pellet grill: As the Traeger brand name has been around for a few decades, you can have some peace of mind that you’re purchasing a grill that should have replacement parts available for the foreseeable future. And Traeger grills tend to have good longevity ratings, working in top condition for several years, as long as you follow the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations.
Kevin, Im about ready to pull the trigger – im pausing for a moment to consider your thoughts as you mentioned Grilla Silverback or Camp Chef. How do these compare to the Rec Tec on quality and price? (as they are less than Rec Tec) And reverse sear…how well does this work on pellet grill, ie how long does it take to go from 200 cooking temp to 500 searing temp (with grill grates)? Thank you for your time
Typically, most portable grills would give up certain features just to maintain their portability, but this wood pellet grill from Traeger actually had more than what other top grills have to offer. Out of all of our features, it managed to tick 85% off the review. Its digital controls, versatile cooking features, and decent cooking space (perfect for outdoor adventures) all make it our best portable pick.
Hey Tom, first, thank you so much for reading the article and expressing your approval of it. It means a lot to me that the information posted on this site is useful for the people. To your question about pellet grills, yes. You must always use BBQ grilling pellets with these cookers. You cannot use raw wood with them. However, should you find yourself with access too hard woods like Hickory or maple, or fruit woods like apple, cherry, or peach – this is something that could be readily used in a charcoal smoker.
My traeger has had some good moments but it very unreliable. I really do not enjoy cooking with it. I have no confidence in the temp readings and the smoke control. Every time I open the lid the temp drops like 200 degrees. I'll smoke at the "smoke" setting but as soon as I turn it to 225 it spikes to like 300-500 degrees. Wtf? I thought this POS was supposed to be a set it and forget it type smoker. Very unreliable. Temp fluctuates so much and if there is even a slight breeze the temps just go up and down up and down. The pellet feeder is garbage. It will all the sudden just start smoking like crazy because the pellets have jammed into the burner. Completely ridiculous smoker. I use it still but only when I can sit and watch the feeder. The guys comment below is true about the feeder always just using the middle pellets. I always have to check it and push the pellets to the center. Some simple engineering would change this. Never again will I purchase a traeger. There are much better options out there and better price.
Take your outdoor cooking to the next level with the Camp Chef Pellet Grill and Smoker. Designed with the home griller in mind, built-in features simplify the process of smoking. The included digital temperature readout takes the guesswork out of the cooking process. An advanced digital temperature chip gives a more steady smoke and temperature, eliminating large temperature swings and giving a more consistent cooking temperature. The Pellet Grill and Smoker features range from innovative digital smoker controls to dual temperature sensors. Discover the real secret of award winning BBQ cooks, low and slow smoking.
The MAK Pellet Boss will increase or decrease with the press of a button in 5°F increments and has a probe in the oven that keeps the temp pretty solid. As with any thermostatically controlled oven, even your indoor oven, the thermostat cycles heat on or off as needed. So it you set it for 225°F it cycles on til it hits 225°F, then off until it drops to 220°F, then on to 225°F. There are three meat probes and the Boss can be programmed to change the cooker temp when the meat hits a target. I've had one for several years outdoors in the Chicago winters and summers without a cover and no problems.
WOW, that’s all I got. What an amazing piece of cooking equipment. I’ve owned mine now for a little over a year, and to be honest, each time I use it, I learn something new about it. I’ve cooked on Traeger’s and owned several Bradley smokers. But nothing compares to the versatility of the Yoder. This thing is well made (its heavy) and it cooks flawlessly. The worst thing about it is the need to empty the ashes, and it’s not that big of a deal. I will say, invest the money and buy the heat diffuser with the access door. It makes removing the ashes so much easier. Ask yourself this question, how many different flavors of propane can you use on your grill. Because with all of the different wood options for this, it’s almost limitless. Make the investment, you won’t be sorry
Be that as it may, if your concern mainly lies on something that can be carried on a truck to an open-air grilling party or to a friend’s place, it’s positively a decent proposal. Aside from portability, it also gives you a cooking adaptability as you can grill, prepare, smoke, grill and braises with no bothers. The grill highlights full-size functionalities in a convenient bundle, henceforth a decent decision for anybody searching for versatile decision.
I did a lot of research, and ended up buying the Camp Chef DLX24. It was at a price that fit my budget, (under $500) and had a lot of features the others didnt. The pellet trap door for quick dumping of the pellet hopper into a bucket, and the ash cleanout under the drum was a clincher. Being able to pull a lever and dump the ashes into an easily removable cup is a great feature that all grills should include.It has a digital temperature controller, and dual probes (one inside the smoker for grill temp, one for the meat) and overall good quality construction. The second shelf inside is standard (you pay extra for that on other grills). If your budget allows, would suggest purchasing the propane powered sear box ($199) which attaches to the side of the grill and allows for reverse searing meat..
I had my Traeger grill now at least a week. Not really satisfied because every time I use it it does good for about a hour then it starts to cool down very quickly. Have to turn it off and start over and over again. This take all day to do this. I should not have to do this all day. Just a waste of pellets. Done wasted a whole bag of pellets. Called customer service. They tell me do the same thing. I think a grill should not do this. The meat I cook sometimes is not cooked. Have to start over again. All of this I have described take hrs. Have to stay outdoor to babysit. This grill should not have to do this. That tell me the grill is not good.
The original Traeger Grill was invented 30 years ago and was every bit as impressive then as it is now. Although it developed a cult following, the early Traeger never grew beyond a niche product. In the past two years, however, Traeger has stepped up its game, redesigning and upgrading its grills while doing everything it can to build a buzz around its amazing do-everything cookers.
One option is to put a griddle or a frying pan on the grill, high heat, get it blistering hot, add just a little oil to prevent stickling, and sear by conduction on the metal. It should only take two to three minutes per side. This is a good technique for reverse seared meats. You start them indirect, low and slow, with a little smoke, and then Maillard the outside in a hot pan or on a griddle. No, it's not cheating. It's making food better.
When reviewing pellet smokers, we’ve gone through over 1000 different user reviews to get an accurate understanding of how useful the products have been to them. With that primary data in hand, we did an extensive online research on 65 products from 17 different brands popular brands. In fact, we even looked into three less known brands as well, but they failed to stand out. We left no stone unturned.
After about 10-15 hours of cooking, you should remove the burn cup and dump the ash. If the ash builds up it can prevent ignition. Ash also accumulates in the bottom of the unit, but doesn't impact cooking. A vacuum cleaner with a hose makes short work of it. Only a few manufacturers, such as Blaz'n Grill Works and Camp Chef have a slide out combustion cup that makes cleanup much easier, but you still have to get underneath the deflector occasionally and suck out fly ash that has scattered around the lower part of the grill body.
Final Verdict: If you have the capability to cook on this full-time, then I recommend doing so. You will save your kitchen and house from excess grease and smell. It can cook most items relatively fast and easy once you get accustomed to cooking on a flat top. The only thing it can't do is cook sauces or bake items. I even recommend it to folks who don't eat typical greasy foods. This requires very little oil and can use all sorts of cooking oil. All of my food dishes have been cooked well and I constantly have people asking about this flat top. Clean up is a breeze and will save you from needing to clean skillets and pans. This is an essential cookware that every household should have.
Hey Charlie – I’d leave that grate wide open if you want maximum heat. If the grates are only over the burn pot, then you can do sort of a two zone cook (indirect vs direct heat) by putting a thicker steak, chop, or piece of chicken on the ‘non direct’ side to get up to a temp that’s 15 or 20 degrees lower than your target. Then, finish off over the burn pot area. Just one idea.
In addition to providing savings, using an oak base also creates consistency. Different types of wood have different densities, burn at different rates, and produce different amounts of heat and smoke. For instance, cherry burns faster than hickory, so using 100% cherry you’d go through more pellets than if using 100% hickory. The addition of oak allows every flavor to burn at a similar rate and with a similar heat output, providing consistency from cook to cook.
Mixing flavored woods with oak offers a couple of advantages, starting with price. Woods like cherry and hickory aren’t nearly as plentiful as oak and therefore cost more, making 100% flavored wood pellet more expensive than those that use a base of oak or alder. By using a blend of oak and cherry, pellet makers can keep prices down—and because oak is fairly neutral the cherry wood smoke flavor still shines through.
A smoking piece of juicy pork butt will just make your day. Not only does it smell good and taste good, the excitement of grilling and the anticipation of a good meal makes the experience even greater. But if you’re new to cooking and grilling, gathering the correct ingredients for a pork butt might be difficult. So, we’d rather simplify it for you with off the shelf products. If you’d rather make the rub yourself, check out our detailed guide.
Kevin, your recommendation rocked. The Pro is one of the best pieces of grilling and smoking iron I have had my hands on in a long time! Better than the Backwoods? Well depends on how much work you want to do! Maybe not, they are first class, but ease of use? I use the Backwoods a couple times a year, the Pro has already done 8 cooks in 5 weeks. Love it.
Thankfully the popularity of pellet grills spurred many new pellet fuel manufacturing companies to enter the industry. There are also some very big names in the grilling world that have seen the light and are now producing pellets as well. This has helped the availability of pellets for sure, but we are still not to a point where pellets are commonplace in stores in all areas.
Pellet grills come in many different sizes with a variety of features. To take the top spot among pellet grills, the Camp Chef SmokePro DLX Grill offers the best combination of grilling space, heat control, and easy-to-achieve flavors that will create tasty meats time and time again. The grill makes cooking with pellets quick, easy, and enjoyable no matter how much skill you have on the grate.